I’m gonna save the Templeton Foundation and Professor John Martin Fischer a lot of time and money:
There’s no evidence of an afterlife and no amount of research is going to change that.
They won’t listen to me, of course, which is why Fischer just received a $5,000,000 grant (over three years) to study the afterlife:
Anecdotal reports of glimpses of an afterlife abound, but there has been no comprehensive and rigorous, scientific study of global reports about near-death and other experiences, or of how belief in immortality influences human behavior. That will change with the award of a three-year, $5 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation to John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality…
“We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions,” Fischer said. “Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We’re not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports. We will look at near-death experiences and try to find out what’s going on there — what is promising, what is nonsense, and what is scientifically debunked. We may find something important about our lives and our values, even if not glimpses into an afterlife.”
Can’t wait till the follow-up studies on reincarnation.
Aaron Harmon wonders how Fischer will go about testing all this:
1. Ask people about their “near death” experiences? So they find a bunch of people who “saw a light” when they were close to death and compare their notes. How do they tell whether they are all experiencing similar trauma and therefore have similar hallucinations? Every time I have asked people about their experiences stubbing their toes, it has been similar to my own. Does that mean there is a toe stubbing fairy?
2. Ask a bunch of theologians what their books say? After the theologians get done arguing about their fairy tales, they will surely ask J.K. Rowling about the love lives of Dementors.
3. Make up a bunch of crap and then cash the check? That’s probably the most efficient method.
Jerry Coyne offers a more detailed analysis of why this grant won’t achieve its stated goals and comes to this conclusion:
In the end, this is just another waste of money by Templeton on The Big Questions, and another corruption of science — and now philosophy. Those who want this kind of money must conform to Templeton’s faith-soaked agenda, and that agenda is deeply injurious to rationality. It is the conflation of reason and woo.
But mostly woo.